(Not) Going Home for Christmas

This could be my very last Christmas as an expat. Note: I don’t say my last Christmas overseas. I am sure I will still travel abroad for the holidays at some point in the future. And given my last post about the differences between migrants and expats the chances are that I may be living abroad again but very possibly not as an “expat”.

So last Christmas. How does it feel? Well in all honesty, I always think this is the one day of the year (for people who celebrate Christmas, whether that be for religious or for cultural reasons) when many of us would probably prefer to be at home. Yes, I know, that might very well mean family rows and turgid afternoons watching the Queen’s Speech and stuffing Quality Streets down our throats. But don’t we all love going home for Christmas? The comfort of routine and the warmth of familiarity.

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Th mess of Christmas past…..

Of course when I say “Christmas” personally I do only mean the actual day itself. Even just half the day would be fine. What I am perfectly happy to be missing is the never-ending build up to the big day that is now as British as red post boxes and Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night. Starting sometime in early October, the shops fill up with tinsel and crackers and those huge packs of chocolate bars that are apparently meant to keep the kids quiet on the morning of the 25th so you can get an extra half an hour in bed…..as the weeks go on, the background carols start to seep into your brain until you find yourself humming “Mary’s Boychild, Jesus Christ” manically as you try and track down the last Hatchimal or whatever this year’s “in” toy is. Then the supermarket aisles and car parks get more and more crazy as people start stock-piling mince pies and those biscuits and cheese sets just in case somehow they need extra food on the one day of the year when the shops don’t open…

As I happily pushed my trolley around the nearly-empty Woolworths here in Pretoria this morning, I thought of my home town and the stand-up rows people have over the last parking space in Tescos and smiled. This is the pay-back for missing the day with my family when we would drink bubbly and exchange silly secret Santa gifts and stuff ourselves on at least five different types of vegetables along with two or three different meats. It’s hard to even remember it is Christmas here – the weather is all wrong for a start (we are sweltering in a heatwave) and there just isn’t the sort of level of panic you normally associate with this time of year. I don’t have to worry about not buying everything I need for the “big day” because the shops don’t actually close at all – I found out today they would be open until 3pm on the 25th.

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A more relaxed Christmas Day: Pretoria 2015

So I will miss Christmas with the family but at the same time we are all enjoying a less-stressful holiday season than we are used to. Many people leave Pretoria at this time of year so traffic is light and shopping is pleasuable. Christmas Day will be low-key, but fun and a few days later we are doing what most people do at this time of the year: heading for the coast. And as we sit on the beach or dive in the sea I will be raising a toast to everyone recovering from post Christmas Distress Syndrome back home.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Show your world: A waterslidingtastic holiday to Egypt

A couple of years ago we decided to take advantage of the brilliant value – not to mention pretty well guaranteed all-day sunshine – that is Egypt and booked a holiday to the resort of Hurghada. I had been to Egypt before, to dive in Dahab and a couple of days visiting Cairo. But this time, with two, active children, we decided to chose our hotel based on one thing: the number of waterslides provided!

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In the end we went for Jungle Aqua Park – which had a huge waterpark attached and also offered countless swimming pools and about eight all-inclusive buffet restaurants. Sadly the quality of the food didn’t live up to the size of the water park, but nevertheless with so much choice, we always found something to eat.

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One of the gorgeous pools at the resort

Fun in the pool

Fun in the pool

While we were in Hurghada, we booked a few trips out of the resort (after all, watersliding has its limits!). This included a great snorkelling trip we made to the nearby Red Sea – which involved spending most of the day on the boat or in the water. Sadly, one of my daughters is not a fan of salt water and has never really taken to snorkelling. The younger one though absolutely loved putting her head under the sea and watching the beautiful jewelled fish and waving corals.

DSCF0012 - CopyWe also took a trip out into the desert one evening – certainly a trip we weren’t going to forget! It started with a hair-raising race through the sand, over dunes and rocks….we did wonder what their health and safety level was like….

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When we finally ended our initial bone-rattling drive in the dry desert heat, we were taken to an enormous sandune which we climbed from one side… DSCF0053and then….

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…ran down the other! The tour guide took us on to meet some of the local desert bedouin living nearby, a fascinating mix of the ancient and the modern, the old ways and the new. My daughters loved seeing how these ancient people still lived – and also enjoyed tasting their just-baked flat bread (stones and all!).

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The next part of the trip saw us climbing a nearby hill to watch the sun set in the stilness.

DSCF0087While nearby, tribesmen prepared their evening meal.

DSCF0084The evening ended with a simple meal and then the most magical experience looking at the stars. I can’t show a photograph of this but lying on the still-warm desert ground, staring up into the velvet black punctuated by millions and millions of bright stars, the milky way so clear that it made you feel dizzy with the knowledge of what was out there…this is something that will stay with me always.

We managed another trip to a museum in the next door hotel which, we were told, was holding some of the antiquities from the Cairo museum, to keep them safe whilst there were all the problems in the capital.

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But to be honest, the thing the girls loved best was…..

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Anyone else holidayed in Egypt? What did you think?

show your world

Packing my Suitcase